Hidden Costs of COVID

The estimated death toll attributed to the COVID -19 virus is now over 700,000.1 As of this writing, it is adding about 1,500 more people to that list per day.  While the human emotional total dwarfs the financial cost, it is worth noting that there are real consequences beyond survival and a (possible) return to good health. Below, we will enumerate the economic toll of a hospitalization.

The Cost of COVID

In a recent news release, FAIR Health2, a national, independent nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing transparency to healthcare costs and health insurance information, found that the average price for a complex COVID-19 hospitalization is $317,810.3 Their definition of COVID-19 hospitalization with complexities “includes, but is not limited to, hospital inpatient services such as laboratory tests, durable medical equipment (such as ventilators), blood and blood components, treatments and specialty drugs, radiology and ICU room and board, as well as outpatient and provider services such as follow-up office visits, lab tests, radiology services, echocardiography procedures, immunology procedures, and transfusions.”3  Of that charge, an average of $98,139 is currently allowable.  On a somewhat less onerous note, the average expenses for a general hospitalization for COVID-19 are $74,591, with an average allowable estimated amount of $33,525.  Of course, these do not include the loss of income associated with the hospitalization.

Additionally, in a separate whitepaper report, FAIR Health found that COVID-19 was the second leading cause for utilizing a fixed-wing (airplane) air-ambulance service.  Those costs alone rose 76.4% from 2017- 2020 to an average of $15,624, for the average estimated allowed (in-network) amount.  The air-ambulance rate did not include any mileage charges.4

In another eye-popping price tag from The Peterson Center on Healthcare and the Kaiser Family Foundation, and spanning June through August 2021, the cost of unvaccinated adults (i.e., preventable COVID-19 hospitalizations) to the national healthcare system was $5 billion dollars.5  

With all of this in mind, it is quickly coming to pass that there will be an increase of healthcare-related bankruptcies, and closures (not those attributable to business downturns, loss of income, etc.), of both patients and providers.6-14 Insurers believe that the dynamic has changed now that measures are available to prevent hospitalizations (i.e., vaccinations) and seeing costs have climbed.  In fact, “nearly three-quarters of the largest health plans are no longer waiving cost-sharing for COVID-19 treatment.”15 Many other waivers are set to expire by the end of 2021. One thing is certain: going forward, you can expect that if you are hospitalized without being vaccinated (or in a less likely scenario, having been), many of those sizable costs will be borne by you.

References

  1. https://abcnews.go.com/Health/american-tragedy-covid-death-toll-tops-700000/story?id=80303622
  2. https://www.fairhealth.org
  3. https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/national-average-charge-for-a-complex-hospital-stay-for-covid-19-is-317-810–fair-health-finds-301381248.html
  4. https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/average-estimated-in-network-amount-for-fixed-wing-air-ambulance-transport-rose-76-percent-from-2017-to-2020-301391325.html
  5. https://www.healthsystemtracker.org/brief/unvaccinated-covid-patients-cost-the-u-s-health-system-billions-of-dollars/
  6. https://www.newsweek.com/concerns-mount-over-looming-surge-bankruptcy-covid-medical-debt-soars-1599755
  7. https://www.usnews.com/news/health-news/articles/2021-07-19/many-hit-hard-by-pandemic-now-swamped-by-medical-debt
  8. https://www.aha.org/fact-sheets/2020-11-09-fact-sheet-covid-19-pandemic-results-bankruptcies-or-closures-some-hospitals
  9. Hospitals in Less-Vaccinated Areas Are Struggling Financially as Infections Mount and Stimulus Runs Out
  10. Hospitals Pay $24 Billion More a Year for Staff During Pandemic
  11. COVID-19 Could Cause Up to $122B hit to Hospital Revenue in 2021, Study Finds
  12. A Side Effect of the Pandemic: Soaring Medical Debt
  13. Another Longtail of COVID-19: Medical Debt
  14. Covid-19: Medical Expenses Leave Many Americans Deep In Debt
  15. https://www.healthsystemtracker.org/brief/most-private-insurers-are-no-longer-waiving-cost-sharing-for-covid-19-treatment/
Scroll to Top